Anal Retentive? Or Just a Love of Books


When I first started serious reading, I would always wash my hands before I would pick up my current book. I would also flex out the pages so as not to create a crease in the spine, and dog-eared pages....don\'t get me started. After reading this article from the Chicago Tribune, I felt at ease in knowing that I was not the only one.
\"I am the sort who reads a paperback at about 120 degrees open, rather than a flat-out 180. I wash my hands before I pick up any book other than a mass market paperback that I am merely toying with. And, as I am sure my grade-school librarians, Mrs. DeMers and Mrs. Hjelmseth, would be delighted to learn, I have never forgotten to carefully break in a new book.\"\"Gently, I ease open the covers and run my index finger to the spine every 20 pages or so until the spine relaxes a bit and the book opens of its own volition. A part-time toiler in a bookstore, too, I wince when an eager customer cracks--literally--open a new book.\"

\"This behavior is extreme, but I am not alone. Bibliophiles, besides being a group that would make for a truly eccentric cocktail party, are nothing less than obsessive. We are a minority, but a dogged one. We encase dust jackets in mylar, we refuse to rid ourselves of books unless they can be placed in good homes; in short, we treat them as nothing less than sacraments.\"

\"And still, I must confess: I secretly envy those who dogear their books. Who use ballpoints to ink exclamation points into the margins or to write phone numbers on the front free endpaper. Who dare to leave a Cheetoed thumbprint right on the text, or draft a breakup note inside the back cover. Though the ardent bibliophile might argue that these are people who are not fully present in the act of reading, these are people who really live with their books. Far from being focused on the physical preservation of the vessel, they immerse themselves in the ideas and world of the text.\"

\"After all, how many books (my beloved reference collection aside) do I really consult again and again? And how likely is a cocked spine or a coffee-stained cover to hurt my revisitation of the book anyway? Resale value isn\'t even a consideration; if you\'ve tried to sell books to a dealer you\'ll know what I mean. There isn\'t room enough for 10 percent of all the unwanted books. So, isn\'t a book, when it has been read and its ideas gleaned, ready to be retired from service or simply passed along to a friend?\"

Subscribe to Comments for "Anal Retentive?  Or Just a Love of Books"